Novak Djokovic has endeared himself to the tennis world with a classy runner-up speech at the US Open after his bid to create history came to a heartbreaking end.
The World No.1 slumped to a shock straight sets defeat to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final as his quest for a record breaking 21st major and the first men's calendar year Grand Slam since 1969 ended in tears. Literally.
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Djokovic couldn't hide his disappointment after the match, with tears welling up in his eyes before his runner-up speech.
The Serbian superstar could have been forgiven for wanting to skip the post-game formalities altogether and process the pain of coming so close to an incredible slice of history, only to come up agonisingly short.
To his credit Djokovic brushed off the agony, if only for a few moments, to deliver a classy runner-up speech in which he spoke glowingly about his Russian opponent and the New York crowd, with which he's had mixed feeling towards in the past.
"Thank you, so much, guys. I would like to start off by saying congratulations to Daniil, amazing, amazing match. Amazing tournament," Djokovic said.
"If there is anyone who deserves the Grand Slam title right now it is you, so well done, absolutely.
"We get along very well. I wish you many more Grand Slams and majors to follow and I'm sure that you will be on the stage in the future again.
"I was thinking in both scenarios, visualising myself standing here and what would I say? I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I am the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special.
Djokovic said the New York crowd "touched his soul" and said fans at the US Open had never made him feel that way before.
"You guys touched my soul. I have never felt like this in New York. I have never felt like this. I love you guys, thank you so much for your support."
— bernieborges (@bernieborges) September 12, 2021
Got to feel for Djokovic. Rare to see him tear up. But a gracious speech, as always.
I think Djokovic was put off by the crowd support. He's not used to having people cheer for him :P#USOpenFinal
— Parth MN (@parthpunter) September 12, 2021
Beautiful speech. Always humble in victory and defeat. He is a blessing. Novak u are amazing. Sending u a virtual hug 🤗
— Zulu 🐊fan of Novak Djokovic (@7_curious) September 12, 2021
A game from the end of his bid for what would have been the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis in 52 years, Djokovic covered his face with a towel, hiding his tears during a changeover.
For 27 Grand Slam matches in 2021, on hard courts, clay courts and grass, Djokovic could not be deterred, could not be beaten.
Needing one more victory to complete a season sweep of major titles and to claim the record 21st of his career, Djokovic could not come through.
Novak Djokovic suffers shock straight sets defeat
Outplayed by someone using a similar style to his own, Djokovic came up just short of those two historic milestones, losing 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to first-time major champion Medvedev at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The No. 1-ranked Djokovic had been sublime at the sport’s four most important tournaments, enduring the burdens of expectations and pressure over the past seven months and, in New York, the past two weeks.
He beat Medvedev in the Australian Open final in February, then added titles at the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July.
But the 34-year-old couldn’t get to 28-0. He was simply too far from his best on this particular day.
He made mistakes, 38 unforced errors in all. He wasn’t able to convert a break chance until it was too little, too late, going just 1 for 6.
He showed frustration, too, destroying his racket by pounding it three times against the court after one point, drawing boos from the crowd of 25,703 and a code violation from chair umpire Damien Dumusois.
A lot of Djokovic’s issues had to do with the No. 2-ranked Medvedev, who used his six-foot-6 (1.98m) frame to chase down everything and respond with seemingly effortless groundstrokes — much the way Djokovic wears down foes — and delivered pinpoint serving. Medvedev won 20 of his first 23 service points, establishing a pattern.
He finished with 16 aces and 38 winners in all, 11 more than Djokovic. After overcoming multiple double-faults on match point, Medvedev finally finished the job, then toppled over to the court on his side.
Djokovic reached his record-equaling 31st Grand Slam final with six victories on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows. But he could not quite get the last one he needed.
He remains tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 major titles.
And the last man to complete a true Grand Slam by going 4 for 4 at the majors in a single season remains Rod Laver, who did it twice — in 1962 and 1969 — and was in the stands watching.
The last woman to accomplish the feat was Steffi Graf in 1988.
with Yahoo Sport US
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